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Bicolanos and devotees in Austria commemorated on September 16, 2017 the annual fluvial procession on board the MS Tegethoff, a passenger vessel, along the Danube River from Vienna, Austria to Spitz an der Donau, Lower Austria in honor of their regional Patroness, Our Lady of Penafrancia.
Leading the celebration are the Bikol Society in Austria and the Filipino Catholic Chaplaincy in Vienna.
The almost seven-hours early morning trip from the dock of the Schiffahrtszentrum in Vienna to the dock of Spitz, a province in the Lower Austrian region is a re- creation of the Lady’s voyage from the Naga Cathedral, where the novena was held, back to her shrine at the Basilica Minore following the Naga River route. The devotees made a procession going to the church where a Holy Mass took place.
As it is done in Naga, during the fluvial procession on the Danube River, the devotees on board MS Tegethoff prayed the rosary with the images of Virgin of Peñafrancia and Holy Face of Jesus Christ also on board.
Many Filipinos in Austria attest that the Nuestra Y Senora de Penafrancia has taken care of them and their loved ones back home.
„For me it is already a panata” (pledge) to join the fluvial procession. Nothing would prevent me from joining the event,“ one of the procession participant commented.
Almost all the devotees who joined the fluvial pilgrimage attributed their answered prayers through the intercession of Our Lady of Peñafrancia
Close to 600 people attended the celebration.
“This is what we want …to have more people celebrating with us,” one of the organizer commented.
“It is actually a grace and a blessing being a part of this significant occasion as Hermano mayor. It is not only a responsibility but a vocation. We are told to proclaim the good news of the Lord through this pilgrimage,” Consul General, Sulficio Confiado said. Mr. Confiado and wife Priscilla are this year’s Hermano and Hermana Mayors.
Holy Mass at the St. Maurice Catholic Church, Spitz
After almost 15 minutes procession from the Spitz Ship’s Station, a Holy Mass was held at the St. Maurice Church. This had been officiated by visiting Philippine Bishop Jose Salmorin Bantolo, Bishop of Masbate, Philippines, together with the chaplains of the Filipino Catholic Community in Austria.
The pastor of the St. Maurice parish, Fr. Peter Rückl, welcomed the pilgrims.
The mayor of the municipality, Andreas Nunzer was very delighted that the Filipinos opted to bring the image of the Lady of Penafrancia in Spitz.
“It is an honor for us here in the locality to witness and celebrate with you this feast. Welcome to Spitz an der Donau and hope you will enjoy your short stay here. Happy and meaningful celebration,” the mayor said.
In his sermon, Fr. Jerome Secillano, Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines explained the importance of the devotion the our lady of Penafrancia.
“Our Lady of Penafrancia was declared to be the patroness of Bicolandia. What is special about this feast is not only the Bicolanos who are celebrating her feast but many of the Filipinos came to actually realize that the blessed mother under the title of our Lady of Penafrancia is a very powerful intercessor,” Fr. Jerome Secillano said.
The Penafrancia Committee of the Bicol Society in Austria, under the leadership of Marizel Rojas, has been working with the Filipino Catholic community for a successful and meaningful Peñafrancia feast.
Rojas said that the consistent observance of this tradition in the Filipino community in Austria serves as a thread that binds the present generation of Filipinos to the past and ensures that they will inspire the faith and lives of the future generation. It also sustains and strengthens our good relations in the Filipino community.
“We, the Bikolanos in Austria brought this religious devotion in Vienna because we want to become instruments of faith among our “kababayans”. We want to spread the devotion to INA which has really brought meaning to the lives of a number of Filipino Marian devotees in Austria,” the president of the Bikol society (Austria) added.
Also present were the leaders of the different Filipino communities.
The devotion to Our Lady of Peñafrancia remains strong among Bicolano communities in various parts of the country and abroad.
There are civic and religious organizations in the United States and Europe that continue to practice and promote devotion to the region’s patroness.
The first fluvial procession in Vienna happened in 2003. Since then, the Penafrancia fluvial parade has become a tradition among the Bikolanos and Marian devotees in Austria.
The Feast of Penafrancia originated in Bicol, and Bicolanos all over the world celebrates it with pride to pay homage to the Virgin Mary. In the Philippines, all roads and routes leads to Naga City in Camarines Sur where millions of Bicolanos troops to the city in celebration of the miraculous patroness of their region. This has been part of Bicolano lore and legend through all these years. It would be an incomplete saga they say, if there is no mention of the Virgin or Ina. The strong devotion to the Heavenly Mother leads all Bicolanos to the shouts of “Viva La Virgen” as they bow and kneel on the ground in prayer. The colorful floral procession carrying the Virgin slowly traverses the Bicol River in downtown Naga. The original image came from the place called Peña de Francia in Salamanca, Spain.
Hector Pascua, ABS-CBN News, Austria